For all the frustration with NBC's time-delayed broadcasts and supposedly shaky online streaming feeds — and we think this is one of those deals that NBC will happily take, the die hards trying to stream and the average viewer waiting to watch everything in prime time, like NBC would like them to — our main "problem" with the Olympics is a basic one: We don't understand what is going on. We don't mean that we're ugly Americans who can't appreciate sports outside the big four or five (though that's surely true). We mean that, sometimes, the sports themselves are so arbitrarily judged that it's maddening.
Take, as the most prominent recent example (though there are usually two or three per Summer/Winter Olympiad), the absolutely ridiculous finish in the judo quarterfinal yesterday. The video isn't embeddable, but go over to Deadspin and watch it. (By the way: Deadspin's sure posting lots of Olympic video this year. Good on them for avoiding the NBC video muscle.) Just go watch, we'll wait.
All right, now ... what in the wha? The judges declare one winner, and then everybody boos. So the judges huddle, and then they declare a different winner, and then that's just sort of it. People have made comparisons to the judging in boxing, but we at least understand that boxing judges are corrupt and adjust accordingly. We have no idea what the hell that was.
Here's the "explanation:"
The reaction of the crowd prompted the unprecedented move for the result to be referred to a reviewing commission, which ruled that Masashi was the winner. Nicolas Messner, spokesman for the International Judo Federation, defended the intervention. “We want to make sure that the right fighter has won,” he said.
So, basically, judo is being judged at the Olympics like American Idol, only less scientifically. This has happened with figure skating and gymnastics and other events in recent years, and it never seems to be all that much of a scandal. (In figure skating, the judges were actually busted for cheating, and nobody really minded.) It's fun to mock baseball for poor umpiring and resistance to instant replay, but at least they're trying to get it right, and fans try to keep everyone accountable.
Here, men and women train for years and years and years for 90 seconds on the world's stage ... and they're judged by applause, apparently. And nobody cares. We dunno. It's probably a good thing the Olympics are only every two years. Otherwise, the world might hate them.